Judges clash in Mulli’s estate case


High Court Judges John Katsala of the Commercial Division in Blantyre and Godfrey Mwase of the Zomba Registry have found themselves clashing on a matter involving the winding up of Chitakale Plantations Company owned by Mulli Brothers.

While the Commercial Division of the High Court set July 30, 2012 to start proceedings for the winding up of the company on grounds that it is unable to pay its lawful debts, Judge Mwase granted a stay order served on Justice Katsala on July 27, 2012, effectively restraining proceedings in the matter.

But when the matter came before the court yesterday as originally set, lawyer Patrick Mpaka, representing petitioners Mary Woodword and Lisinet Gremu, said the commercial court was not bound by the order.

He said Katsala should have to disregard it and proceed with the hearing of the petition.

However, lawyer Lusungu Gondwe, representing Chitakale Plantations Company, counter argued that the order was valid and had to be complied with until it is set aside.

After arguments and counterarguments regarding whether or not the order was binding as it came from a court of equal jurisdiction, Katsala adjourned the matter to an hour later for ruling.

“The situation I am faced with is one whereby a court has made an order which on the face of it is erroneous because it contravenes the law of this country.

The question is whether an order should be ignored, disregarded or disobeyed,” began Katsala’s ruling.

It continued: “I think the most I can do is to express my profound regret at the situation. I would not want to create a situation whereby two courts (of equal jurisdiction) are seen as if they are contradicting each other over a matter or trying to outwit each other.”

He further said he would avoid proceeding with the matter as that would mean contradicting his learned colleague and would put the integrity of the judicial system into disrepute.

“For the sake of comity and preserving the integrity of the courts, it is my decision that I should not proceed with this hearing of the petition today.

“A court order, though erroneous or misguided, remains enforceable unless and until it is set aside,” reads part of the ruling.

He, therefore, adjourned the matter to next month as he ordered the parties concerned to take the order back to the Zomba High Court and argue on its merits and demerits.

This, he said, would allow the court in Zomba to make a considered view on the order.

Court battles between Mary Woodworth and Chitakale Plantations Limited in this matter started four years ago.

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